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Australian Schools Boot Microsoft for Google Gmail

Google seems to have bested Microsoft in the land down under, according to various accounts of an Australian public school system e-mail contract deal. The deal, announced yesterday, ousts an e-mail system based on Microsoft's products in favor of using Google's Gmail.

The school system, which includes New South Wales public schools and TAFE (Technical and Further Education) colleges, plans to provide a new e-mail system using Google's Gmail platform to 1.3 million users by the end of 2008, according to a press release issued by John Hatzistergos, the Acting New South Wales Minister for Education and Training.

"The NSW Department of Education and Training has one of the biggest IT networks in Australia and runs one of the largest wide area networks in the world," explained Hatzistergos, in the press release.

The contract is estimated to be worth $9.1 million (AUD$9.5 million) over its three-year term. Negotiations are currently underway with the winning bidder, SMS Management & Technology.

An account by MIS.Australia.com also lists Australian telecom firm Telstra as being a partner in the deal.

The school system apparently had been using Microsoft's Outlook and Exchange solutions, which had been installed by Unisys under three-year deal initially valued at $33 million. That system was constructed in 2003, and the contract was extended three more years. However, students only began using the e-mail system in 2007, according to MISAustralia.com.

That skirmish may have led to some bad blood. For instance, in 2008, the NSW Department of Education "put Microsoft on notice," and shortened a renegotiated contract from three years to one year, according to a Fairfax Business Media account. In addition, the department began advocating the installation of OpenOffice.org, a free productivity-suite alternative to Microsoft Office. It also promoted downgrading from Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system to Windows XP, according to the account.

The customized Gmail application, which is hosted and accessed over the Internet, will provide students with greater e-mail storage capacity, boosting it to 6 GB per mailbox. The earlier solution only enabled mailbox storage of 35 MB, according to Hatzistergos. Other features of the Gmail system include filtering and security and integration with the department's portal page.

In other news relating to Google's Gmail platform, one of Google's technology partners is suing that company over "deceptive business practices," according to a Reuters story.

According to the account, LimitNone LLC met with Google over LimitNone's gMove tool, which can move address and calendar information from Microsoft's Outlook into Gmail. The lawsuit alleges that Google copied the gMove tool and produced its own similar free solution called Google Email Uploader.

LimitNone's lead attorney, David Rammelt, told Reuters that LimitNone's alleged loss, based on Google's 50 million subscribers, "very quickly gets you up to about $950 million."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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